Dr. Russell H. “Russ” Ritchel, Jr. is a native of the Midwest where he grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Following graduation from the University of Kansas in 1972, Russ went to Europe for six months serving with Youth With A Mission doing evangelism work at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. He traveled through Europe and across the Mediterranean to visit Israel.
He returned to the United States and in quick succession he worked as a youth director in a church in San Diego and eventually became the Director of San Diego Teen Challenge. While there he met his future wife, also on staff, and had to “fire” her when they became engaged. As part of a desire to more fully study theology and under the counsel of his home pastor, he applied to Princeton Theological Seminary. Russ graduated from Princeton in 1979 with the Master of Divinity degree with concentration in Bible.
Following graduation from seminary he joined the staff of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As Minister to Students he was responsible for the college ministry and supervised the junior and senior high departments. Later he became the Minster of Discipleship and supervised the Christian Education ministry of that church. He was one of five ordained ministers who lead the church as it grew from 3,200 members to over 4,000 members between 1979 and 1985.
In 1985 Dr. Ritchel accepted a call as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas, where he served for six years. During that time he enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary focusing his studies on church growth. He completed that degree in 1996.
The First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, called Russ to be its pastor in August 1991. During his eighteen year ministry there the church was part of an extensive downtown revitalization. As worship attendance grew, a new seat worship center was built to provide a home for the expanding contemporary services. Extensive discipleship, evangelism and mission outreach to the homeless in the community were vital parts of the church’s ministry. In 2011 and 2012 Russ served as Interim Pastor at Yorkminster Presbyterian Church in Yorktown, Virginia.
Currently, Dr. Ritchel is serving as Interim Pastor at Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church in Naples, Florida. He and his wife Merideth still still own a home Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They have three grown daughters and eight grandchildren and a Great Dane.